OctoBER 2016

BRAVO! Carol Madsen

by Kate Peterson

When Roy Madsen was asked to describe his wife Carol in one word it was only seconds before he said, “Optimistic.” That could be a bit of an understatement. Carol Madsen is an artist, but she brings a whole new meaning to the word. 

Carol’s family moved to Racine from Milwaukee when she was two. Ironically, Roy and Carol’s moms worked together at Prince Pastries in town long before the two of them met at a dance in Kenosha. They didn’t start dating until later when Carol was in college and needed an escort and a convertible for the Fourth of July Parade as she was first runner-up in the 1954 Miss Racine Pageant. Roy fit the bill and they’ve been married for 59 years and have two daughters, one grandson, and four granddaughters.

In 1952 Carol graduated from Horlick high school. She followed that in 1956 with a Bachelor’s degree in Art Education from UW-Madison. She began her teaching career at a K-8 grade school in West Allis. She left teaching when her two daughters were born and later resumed her career in Racine with two years at Gilmore, six at Jersted, two at Horlick, and then back for eleven more years at Gilmore. In 2015 she was inducted as a Graduate of Distinction into the Wm. Horlick High School Hall of Fame for promoting art both in Wisconsin and Florida.

The Racine Art Guild was in its infancy when Carol was encouraged by a friend to join and soon she was instrumental in guiding the young organization in supporting artists and promoting the visual arts in Racine. She served two terms as president in 1968 and 1969. She chaired and worked with the Starving Artist Fair for many years.

As a child Carol always liked art in school and did well. She was often called upon to do whatever “arty” things were needed, however, she wanted to be a math teacher. She said, “I really didn’t choose art, it chose me!” To this day she doesn’t think of herself as an artist but rather as an art teacher. Her favorite art memories are of things her students made! Like the assignment where they did a take-off on a well-known product. One student turned Brim coffee into “Grim” coffee (it was decapitated) and another turned cornflakes into pornflakes. She couldn’t display the second project and she did have to call the dad, but she still loved her student’s creativity and she made sure that both the father and the son understood that. She reveled in her students’ successes. Her ability to remain nonjudgmental and yet constructively critical was her strong suit. Even now she thrills when she can serve as a teacher. She recalls the time she was critiquing something professional artist Lance Raichert was working on at “Geezers” (a local group that paints on Wednesday mornings at the Cesar Chavez Center on Douglas) and he agreed to use her suggestion. It worked.  

Carol’s favorite medium is watercolor because it traveled well in an RV for 20 years. She also works with acrylic and likes Batik. Impressionistic painting with its softness of color inspires Carol. Renoir and Monet are favorites. A trip to Monet’s Giverny to paint is a treasured memory. What about art makes Carol happy? “When I do a painting I like, it makes me feel good! And the same goes for work my students do,” she said. Carol especially enjoys her adult students in her RV park in Ocala, FL. She put up a sign there in the rec room in 1998 announcing an art class on Thursdays and they came. They’ve been coming ever since. Carol designed a 7’ X 40’ panoramic mural of Florida and decided to hide a naked lady in the piece ala John Trumbull a Revolutionary era painter. Of course she was visited by the “ladies moral police,” but the naked lady stayed. It was even funnier after the word got around and an old gent passed by while she was sitting outside and he winked at her. Now, she was famous for the Naked Lady. 

Carol is also known for her witty monologues and her funny, original songs set to familiar tunes that she sings and plays on her ukulele to roast family and friends.  She’s performed for retirements, birthdays, class reunions, Racine Art Guild, and more. 

Carol has been a member of the Ocala Art Group and has exhibited at the University of Central Florida Appleton Museum, as well as, in the Civic Center Juried Show in Ocala. Here at home she exhibited at Wustum, The Arts Council, the Starving Artist Fair, and the Anderson Art Center in Kenosha.

There are also challenges. The greatest being initiative. “I wish I had more. I’m not driven enough, I like to do too many things!” she lamented. If her Art Fairy could grant one wish, she said, “I would like to be Sue Wolfe and have that wonderful level of tenacity.”

Her greatest achievements haven’t been exhibits or awards, but rather finding her art friends, working with her students, developing The Starving Artist Fair, initiating the summer art program in West Allis, and the yearly art exhibit she hangs at the Silver Springs RV Park.  Carol said, “Mainly it’s about people, art people.” Roy is right. Carol is an optimist and a blessing to those she’s touched.